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French Immersion initiative fails

Numbers in Pemberton do not warrant superintendent's support



By Cindy Filipenko

French Immersion education will not be coming to Pemberton’s Signal Hill Elementary School — this year.

Last week’s pre-registration failed to generate sufficient numbers to warrant the implementation of the program.

A group called Pemberton Parents for French Immersion (PPFI) began lobbying for the option of French Immersion education at the beginning of the school year, holding a number of information sessions. A pre-registration process to see if the numbers supported the implementation of the program followed up the last information session, held in mid-April. The parents of 53 students expressed interest in participating in the program.

However, those students ranged from kindergarten to Grade 6 and French Immersion is introduced as either early immersion, beginning in kindergarten and Grade 1, or as late immersion, at the intermediate level. The early immersion option, which was the option favoured by the PPFI, garnered 25 registrations, 23 less than what is considered ideal to initiate the program.

Based on these numbers, School District No. 48 Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Rick Erickson, will be recommending the school board not proceed with a French Immersion program at Signal Hill for the 2007/08 school year.

“I won’t be recommending either early immersion or late immersion,” clarified Dr. Erickson.

When Dr. Erickson first met with the PPFI in January, the group was looking for a 2008 start date for the program. The superintendent suggested a pre-registration process to judge the level of interest. While this first attempt did not result in a positive outcome for the group, Dr. Erickson says they are certainly welcome to survey Signal Hill parents again next year.

“I can see no reason why we wouldn’t look at it again next year,” he said.

One option for parents favouring a French Immersion education is to enroll their child at Whistler’s Spring Creek Elementary. That school has been employing an early immersion curriculum for the past two years. In B.C. parents are allowed to send their children to any public school they would like, providing there is room.

“It would be possible as long as there was room. I’m not sure if they’re at capacity. But kids do drop out, move away and there is a wait list.”

Parents wishing to enroll their children out of their local catchments are responsible for their children’s transportation to and from school.